Disclaimer: I own nothing, except the thoughts in my head.
Warnings for the typical morbid and grotesque things you ought to expect from me.

Empty Places

The skies glow red over Illyria's broken kingdom. Her monuments are crumbling ruins, reminders of the ghostly world she had returned to. Her original kingdom is turned to ash, along with her legions. Now the world turns to ash, along with mankind. Everything seems to remind Illyria of her loss, and her humiliation. The newfound grief drove her out, looking for something that would make her forget, and would restore her power for a while.

She'll never find it, but in the meantime he's left with the task of caring for Illyria's ward. The fallen goddess planned to return to greatness with a new prodigy under her wings. Apparently there was a lot of power locked away underneath her pale skin. So much energy was channeled into every fiber of her being that she's deteriorating, ready to explode. She holds immense power, like a small universe, and will consequently punch a hole in the world if she ever does explode. He must have overlooked the extreme meaning of it back when her favorite pastime was sneaking out of the house.

They're in Illyria's garden, now, where everything goes to die. He knows from the hour that he should be on fire, but sunlight barely pierces through the thick haze anymore. She spends hours trailing her fingers through the dirt. It reminds him of another time, and another beauty who tried to plant daises but could never keep them alive. Now there is no desire to keep this garden alive, yet it blooms at full force. All he desires is to grab her and run far away, but it would be futile. Those daydreams come, nonetheless, sometimes so vivid that he twitches in surprise when he comes back to reality.

She keeps pawing through the dirt, her flimsy gown stained through with damp soil. Fingers stab through the ground like claws, gutting out new pits.

Another hour passes.

Another hour that feels like a day, filled with stilled lungs and stopped hearts. He doesn't need to breathe, but he wishes that she would. She does breathe, of course. He's sure that she still has to breathe. Logically, she has to breathe to stay alive. He just wishes she would make more signs to remind him that she's still human. That she's still here with him.

Her decline wasn't noticeable from one day to the next. However, as the days strung on and on, the downward spiral became clear. She's losing herself, and her sanity, slipping away into some dark void. If only a single word could be spoken, he is sure it would break the spell and save her, but he doesn't know what the word is. Anything less, and she will react. She will break the delusion that he needs so desperately. If he could only touch her and actually feel her there, it would be a miracle. He could let himself breathe again.

"I found one," she whispers, so softly that it barely travels through the air. He feels it like a crushing vice, forcing him to draw in a breath. His chest barely moves, but it feels like his lungs are going to explode. He lets the air out again, not to be disturbed for another short eternity.

She sinks her hands into the soil, reaching down until her wrists disappear, until he's sure she'll be swallowed up. She seems to grasp onto something, then slowly drags it up. The object breaks the surface, and clumps of soil tumble out of the cavities, exposing yellow bones. A pleased rumbling sound comes from his girl, and she gives the skull a shake to free more dirt. A worm writhes in a fallen dirt clod and then hides somewhere within. Small insects scurry out of their hiding spots and run over her hands. She brushes off the insects and brushes off the dirt, revealing more of the freshly exposed skull. He's sure that there is some deliquescing flesh still lodged inside, but he doesn't want to know. She picks rotted bits off of the skull, making it more presentable. The bottom jaw is dropped off, and the back is cracked, but she doesn't seem to care about any of it. She finally stops, staring at the empty spaces.

"Isn't it beautiful?" she murmurs, tracing the jagged edge of the nose. She seems to regard death with awe now, the revulsion having died away after the first few weeks of unspeakable horrors.

He can't bring himself to speak. Instead, he slides towards her, until she is close enough to touch. An invisible barrier seems to keep them apart, now. Everything has changed. Her hair looks darker than he remembers it being, and her dress barely clings to her. Inside, she's broken, and it reflects clearly on the surface. Green eyes reflect detached interest, as if she is watching everything from far away. He wishes that she would come back to him, but it's unthinkable. He knows that it is the only way she can cope as her world dies away, and Illyria's garden continues to grow.